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Food, sleep, and your health

Friday, January 5, 2018


Sleep and food have an interesting and interconnected relationship. How much sleep you get can affect how much, what, and when you eat. At the same time, what you eat can affect how much and the quality of your sleep. Getting a full seven to eight hours of sleep each night is vital for optimum health, yet many adults are constantly sleep deprived.

But diet and sleep can be used to help one another. Some foods are rich in nutrients that can naturally help you fall asleep. In turn, when you get enough sleep, you make better food choices that in turn can lead to better health.

Food to help you sleep

If you need a late night snack try to reach for one these options. Not only are they healthy, they have nutrients that support good sleep hygiene (all the behaviours that lead to a good nights sleep).

  • Fish: Fish is rich in Vitamin B6 which is essential for making melatonin, an important sleep-promoting hormone. However, not all fish are equal in their B6 content. The highest levels are found in salmon, tuna, and halibut.
  • Bananas: Bananas are a fast, easy snack that promote good sleep because they are full of potassium and Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 in bananas works just like that found in fish, to create more melatonin. Potassium regulates the movement of nutrients and helps to prevent muscles cramps.
  • Yogurt and other high calcium foods. The brain uses calcium and tryptophan to create melatonin to help the body sleep.
  • Tart cherry juice. Cherries are a natural source of melatonin. And, though cherry juice isn’t as powerful as some other foods, it does promote sleep and help insomnia.

More sleep means better eating habits

Sleep helps regulate the hunger hormones like ghrelin and leptin that the body uses to moderate how much, what, and when to eat. When you are sleep deprived, the hormone levels change, and the body craves food even when it’s not hungry. Not only that, the food you crave when you are tired usually consists of carbohydrates and/or foods that are high in fat.

With the right amount of sleep, the body can send the signal that it’s full. Consequently, you’re more likely to respond by stopping. That’s why many good weight loss programs promote getting a full night’s rest.

Sleep leads to overall good health

Sleep supports other behaviours that lead to good overall health. It’s easier to control weight with adequate sleep. In turn, having a healthy weight reduces the risk of a long list of conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease to name a few.

Armed with the knowledge of the importance of sleep, how do you get a better night’s rest? There are certain conditions and behaviours that can promote sleep along with a healthy, well-balanced diet. They include:

  • Comfortable conditions. The room temperature, lighting, and your mattress play a significant role in your ability to get a good night’s rest. A cool room with little to no light is ideal. Noise should be at a minimum. If you absolutely need some background noise, try white noise as it doesn’t interrupt sleep and helps mask outside noises.
  • Consistent bed and wake times. The body has a natural sleep cycle that’s induced by your hormones. With a consistent bedtime, the body learns to release those hormones at the same time every day, making it easier for you to fall asleep and wake up in the morning.
  • Bedtime routine. If settling down for the night presents a problem for you, a bedtime routine can often help. It works to trigger your bodies natural sleep cycle. It could include a warm cup of milk or cherry juice with their sleep-inducing properties.

Further reading:

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